Page 38 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 44

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26
JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
RELIGIOUS MOTIVATION
Similar sentiments are expressed as well in the works of leading
scholars. Henry Baker Tristram (1822-1906), the “father o f the
na ture study o f Palestine,” writes in his
The Land of Israel
(London, 1865) that Eretz-Israel research may be said to lead to
an enhanced understanding of revelation and the cradle of uni­
versal faith. The French scholar, Victor Guerin, author of the
comprehensive seven-volume
Description Geographique, Historique
et Archeologique de la Palestine
(Paris, 1869-1880), states that the
motivation for Eretz-Israel research is the desire to comprehend
why God chose to reveal Himself in this special land. He also
writes that here history confronts you everywhere and age-old
memories are aroused. Eretz-Israel is the common heritage of
mankind and because of the Bible, its influence is felt in the life of
every Christian from childhood on. A visit to the land, therefore,
may be seen as a return to one’s childhood memories which take
on here physical reality.
Eretz-Israel research as part of the national rebirth and the
Jewish settlement effort has assumed a distinct national-secular
character. The Israeli scholar does not approach the subject with
any theological bias. His main motivation is to demonstrate the
historicity of the events in the Bible and to uncover forgotten or
unknown chapters in the history ofJewish settlement. This “secu­
lar” approach finds expression in the widening of the scope and
content of the inquiry. There is no longer concentration on
spiritual-cultural history alone (even though it is still central, and
discoveries like the Dead Sea scrolls have been a major subject of
research since the forties).
The aim is to describe the history of the Jews in their land as a
comprehensive national phenomenon and not to gloss over the
political and “earthly” aspects of that history. There is no doubt
that this Zionist-national motivation (which was always tinged by
an element of romanticism) was sometimes linked by scholars of
the Zionist Socialist trend with an ideological approach that led
them to deal with economic and social history and other practical
aspects. The Jewish society is no longer viewed as a closed
religious-theocratic community divorced from the stormy politi­
cal events that occur in the land. On the contrary, at times there is
too much concern (and even exaggeration) with describing the
Jewish political and military role, as during such periods, for